A NEIGHBOR TO THE NORTH
I just finished the article on Leonard Birchall in the December 2005 issue (“Personality”) and was surprised to read how important Sir Winston Churchill felt the actions of one individual were in World War II. It makes me proud to be a Canadian. I believe that the contributions made by the Canadian military in all arenas of the war seem to go largely unnoticed. I would hope that you take it upon yourself to include more stories about your neighbor to the north, and the impact my countrymen had on the final outcome of the war. I just renewed my subscription and can’t wait for it to arrive! Keep the ink flowing and the stories coming. Thanks for some great reading.
CHILSON WAS CHEATED
After reading the article about Master Sergeant Llewellyn Chilson (“Above, Beyond and Forgotten”) in the April 2006 issue, I was completely outraged. How could a man who displayed such gallantry and bravery be denied the Medal of Honor? I sat mesmerized while reading about the numerous acts of bravery performed by Sergeant Chilson during the war. To deny that his actions were “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” is ludicrous. To suggest (as did the War Department Decorations Board) that there was a lack of proof to justify the MoH to Sergeant Chilson is disingenuous. The article itself noted a number of sources who provided information in support of Chilson receiving the MoH. I wonder if something more sinister was at play here. Interestingly, a photograph depicting Sergeant Chilson and Audie Murphy together appears in the article. Could it be that those marketing Audie Murphy at that time did not want any competition? Remember, Hollywood and the War Department enjoyed a close relationship then.
Nevertheless, nothing should be taken from Murphy. He was a true American hero and deserves the respect and admiration of all Americans for his acts of gallantry and bravery during the war. Moreover, Murphy earned the MoH and every other decoration he received for his courageous acts. However, denying Sergeant Chilson the recognition he deserves takes something away from the honor, dignity and prestige that the nation’s highest award embodies. Thus, it also takes away from those soldiers who were so deservedly bestowed with that honor.
Our country has a tradition of making what is wrong right. In the case of Sergeant Chilson (and I am sure others), those responsible for reviewing awards should convene and review this matter again. Only this time, the Medal of Honor should be posthumously awarded to Master Sgt. Chilson.
Robert A. Ebberup
Toms River, N.J.
I PLAYED FOR PATTON’S FUNERAL
Reading “Almanac” in your December 2005 issue, I noticed with particular interest the photograph for December 23 of the interior of a church. As you may know, this was the date in 1945 when General George S. Patton’s funeral was held in Heidelberg, Germany. I was there when the photograph was taken at the Christus Kirche about an hour before the funeral service, after the casket had been taken to the church and positioned in front of the altar.
In this photo there are few people in the pews on the left, as most of those attending had not yet arrived. By the time the service started, most of the left-hand side of the main floor pews were filled, and Mrs. Beatrice Patton, her brother and a number of high-ranking general officers were seated on the right of the central aisle. A few Germans were seated in the balcony, which was otherwise empty.
When Patton died in the military hospital in Heidelberg, I was stationed in Mannheim, not very far away, serving as a chaplain’s assistant and rehearsing with the Seventh Army chorus for a Christmas concert. Unexpectedly, I was assigned to play the organ for the funeral. Needless to say, it was a great honor for me to participate, and I was very surprised when I spotted that photo in your magazine!
James P. Autenrith
PROBLEMS ON THE PIONEERS
After reading the article “Final Spasm on Sulfur Island” (March 2006) I felt I must respond to what was written about the battle of March 26, 1945. I thought the article was excellent until the author got to the part about the pioneers. Ivan E. Prall stated that we were a unit composed of black Marines commanded by white officers and that we were used primarily as stevedores. The author is wrong on both counts. If he had done his homework, he would have found out that we pioneers did various jobs and that we were all white with white officers, which can be checked very easily. Second, from March 9-25, 1945, we were relieved from the beach area and assigned to various elements of the 26th, 27th and 28th Marine regiments at the front line area and used in holding positions to make sure no Japanese soldiers passed through our lines. While doing this we had a number of our men killed.
I was a member of B Company, 5th Pioneer Battalion, and was one of the very few lucky ones never to be wounded, which to this day I find hard to believe, since I was on Iwo Jima for 36 days. The article was, in my opinion, excellent except for the two discrepancies mentioned above.
Antonio J. Lima
Editor’s note: Mr. Lima is correct. First Lieutenant Harry Martin was an officer in the all-white 5th Pioneer Battalion. The African-American Marines that the author referred to belonged to the 36th Depot Company, which, along with the 8th Ammunition Company, comprised black enlisted men and white officers. Two members of the 36th Company were awarded the Bronze Star for “heroic achievement” in repulsing the March 26 attack discussed in the article. One Marine from each of the two companies was fatally wounded during the battle, and four others were wounded but recovered.
Originally published in the June 2006 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.